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Ghosts

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Utagawa Kunisada (aka Toyokuni III), Japanese, (1786–1864)
Ghost of Okiku and Asayama Tetsuzan, c. 1850
ink and colors on paper
10 x 14 1/2 in. (25 x 37 cm)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2019.1.85


Commentary
In one of Japan’s most popular ghost stories, Okiku was a beautiful young servant at Himeji castle who caught the eye of one of her master’s retainers. When she refused his advances, he told her that one plate in his master’s set of ten fine dishes was missing, a loss that could cost Okiku her life. He promised that if she became his mistress, he would tell her master she was not responsible, but she still refused. Enraged, he beat her, tied her up and suspended her over the castle well. When she still rejected him, he dropped her into the well to die. Soon after, her ghost appeared at the castle, searching for the missing plate and counting, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9...,” followed by a blood-curdling scream. Anyone who heard her counting died. Here, Okiku’s ghost rises out of the well to pursue her murderer.

- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021

Marks
Signature: Toyokuni ga
Seals: Kinugasa and Watanabe

Medium
Full-color woodblock print, ink on paper

Object Description
The maid, Okiku, appears as a ghost, in a long, serpentlike body of blue, pale face and hands, and a long mane of black hair and seems to confronts Asayama. The well that Asayama drowned Okiku in, a square wooden structure, is to the right in the foreground.

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